Society's shift from field to city is reflected in the placement of prayers in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer (BCP). The first English Prayer Books served a culture that was largely agrarian, and were rich with prayers for farmers' concerns. There were "Rogation Days" and prayer processions around farm fields. In the '79 BCP, the traditional prayer for agriculture is accompanied by a prayer for Stewardship of Creation and a prayer for Commerce and Industry, which we might well offer for our neighbors in retail,
Almighty God, whose Son Jesus Christ in his earthly life
shared our toil and hallowed our labor: Be present with your
people where they work; make those who carry on the industries
and commerce of this land responsive to your will; and give
to us all a pride in what we do, and a just return for our labor;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for
I think most clergy and many lay Christians are ambivalent about this time of the year. A new church year is just beginning and the telling of Christ's birth is near, but the busyness, especially all the shopping and spending, have displaced the traditional Advent call to contemplation. Church activities seem like the straw that breaks the camels back for many overextended families.
At the malls, muzak versions of great Christian hymns are white noise for a relentless buying and selling, the kind of commerce that troubled several great people in the Bible.
That is to say, "So has it ever been." It is no surprise that Jesus, in Jerusalem during a sacred season, found money-changers' tables to flip, down and out seasonal workers and prostitutes to comfort, and religious leaders to yell at. The sacred and the profane, liberation and exploitation, good and evil always intermingle in our daily lives. God's people need not sulk, even as we seek to be a holy counter-culture,
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)